Nate Parker's 'Birth of a Nation' Gets Standing Ovation at Toronto International Film Festival

The praise comes after an old rape case involving Parker surfaced in headlines.

ByJOI-MARIE MCKENZIE
September 10, 2016, 10:49 AM
PHOTO: Nate Parker as Nat Turner and Aja Naomi King as Cherry in a scene from, "The Birth of a Nation," in theaters on Oct. 7.
Nate Parker as Nat Turner and Aja Naomi King as Cherry in a scene from, "The Birth of a Nation," in theaters on Oct. 7.
Fox Searchlight Pictures/AP Photo

— -- "Birth of a Nation," Nate Parker's directorial debut, received a standing ovation when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday night.

Parker, who walked the red carpet for the first time since a rape case from his college days surfaced in headlines, introduced the film. "Birth of a Nation," set for release in October, tells the true story of how slave Nat Turner led a rebellion in 1831.

"I want to thank you for your time and for coming to see our film," he said, according to People magazine. "This film has been a labor of love for us and we are desperately proud to present it to you."

Parker, along with his co-stars, including Gabrielle Union and Armie Hammer, will also be featured at a panel discussion Sunday at the Canadian film festival.

Praise for the film has been largely overshadowed recently by controversy over an old rape case involving Parker.

PHOTO: Nate Parker attends the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival premiere of "The Birth Of A Nation" Premiere at Winter Garden Theatre on September 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.
Nate Parker attends the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival premiere of "The Birth Of A Nation" Premiere at Winter Garden Theatre on September 9, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.
J. Countess/Getty Images

The actor -- who directed, starred, wrote and produced "Birth of a Nation" -- was accused of raping a fellow classmate while he was a student at Penn State University in 1999. Parker, 36, was later acquitted, but his college roommate and wrestling teammate, Jean Celestin, who also happens to be his collaborator on the film, was found guilty before his verdict was overturned. The accuser committed suicide in 2012 after many previous attempts.

"Birth of a Nation" swept all top categories at the Sundance Film Festival Awards in January, becoming only the fourth film to capture all of the festival's highest honors.

Fox Searchlight then won a record-setting bidding war to acquire the film's worldwide distribution rights. The studio will release the film in theaters Oct. 7.

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